Self-reflection is a desire felt by the body, as well as the soul. As dancers, healers, and saints all know, when you turn your attention toward even the simplest physical process - breath, the small movements of the eyes, the turning of a foot in midair - what might have seemed dull matter suddenly awakens.
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We are the bird's eggs. Bird's eggs, flowers, butterflies, rabbits, cows, sheep, we are caterpillars; we are leaves of ivy and springs of wildflower. We are women. We rise from the wave. We are gazelle and doe, elephant and whale, lilies and roses and peach, we are air, we are flame, we are oyster and pearl, we are girls. We are woman and nature. And he says he cannot hear us speak. But we hear.
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I know I am made from this earth, as my mother's hands were made from this earth, as her dreams came from this earth and all that I know, I know in this earth, the body of the bird, this pen, this paper, these hands, this tongue speaking, all that I know speaks to me through this earth.
In the system of chivalry, men protect women against men. This is not unlike the protection relationship which [organized crime] established with small businesses in the early part of this century. Indeed, chivalry is an age-old protection racket which depends for its existence on rape.
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We heard of this woman who was out of control. We heard that she was led by her feelings. That her emotions were violent. That she was impetuous. That she violated tradition and overrode convention. That certainly her life should not be an example to us. (The life of the plankton, she read in this book on the life of the earth, depends on the turbulence of the sea) We were told that she moved too hastily. Placed her life in the stream of ideas just born. For instance, had a child out of wedlock, we were told. For instance, refused to be married. For instance, walked the streets alone, where ladies never did, and we should have little regard for her, even despite the brilliance of her words. (She read that the plankton are slightly denser than water) For she had no respect for boundaries, we were told. And when her father threatened her mother, she placed her body between them. (That because of this greater heaviness, the plankton sink into deeper waters) And she went where she should not have gone, even into her sister's marriage. And because she imagined her sister to be suffering what her mother had suffered, she removed her sister from that marriage. (And that these deeper waters provide new sources of nourishment) That she moved from passion. From unconscious feeling, allowing deep and troubled emotions to control her soul. (But if the plankton sinks deeper, as it would in calm waters, she read) But we say that to her passion, she brought lucidity (it sinks out of the light, and it is only the turbulence of the sea, she read) and to her vision, she gave the substance of her life (which throws the plankton back to the light). For the way her words illuminated her life we say we have great regard. We say we have listened to her voice asking, "of what materials can that heart be composed which can melt when insulted and instead of revolting at injustice, kiss the rod?" (And she understood that without light, the plankton cannot live and from the pages of this book she also read that the animal life of the oceans, and hence our life, depends on the plankton and thus the turbulence of the sea for survival.) By her words we are brought to our own lives, and are overwhelmed by our feelings which we had held beneath the surface for so long. And from what is dark and deep within us, we say, tyranny revolts us; we will not kiss the rod.
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He says that woman speaks with nature. That she hears voices from under the earth. That wind blows in her ears and trees whisper to her. That the dead sing through her mouth and the cries of infants are clear to her. But for him this dialogue is over. He says he is not part of this world, that he was set on this world as a stranger. He sets himself apart from woman and nature... We are the birds eggs. Birds eggs, flowers, butterflies, rabbits, cows, sheep; we are caterpillars; we are leaves of ivy and sprigs of wallflower. We are women. We rise from the wave. We are gazelle and doe, elephant and whale, lilies and roses and peach, we are air, we are flame, we are oyster and pearl, we are girls. We are woman and nature. And he says he cannot hear us speak. But we hear.
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Is it a coincidence that stories from the private life became more popular just as the grand hope for public redemption through revolution was beginning to sour? I witnessed a similar shift in taste in my own time. In the 1960s, while a hopeful vision of a just society arose again, countless poems and plays concerning politics and public life were written, read, and performed. But after the hope diminished and public life seemed less and less trustworthy, this subject was less in style.
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In the cage is the lion. She paces with her memories. Her body is a record of her past. As she moves back and forth, one may see it all: the lean frame, the muscular legs, the paw enclosing long sharp claws, the astonishing speed of her response. She was born in this garden. She has never in her life stretched those legs. Never darted farther than twenty yards at a time. Only once did she use her claws. Only once did she feel them sink into flesh. And it was her keeper's flesh. Her keeper whom she loves, who feeds her, who would never dream of harming her, who protects her. Who in his mercy forgave her mad attack, saying this was in her nature, to be cruel at a whim, to try to kill what she loves. He had come into her cage as he usually did early in the morning to change her water, always at the same time of day, in the same manner, speaking softly to her, careful to make no sudden movement, keeping his distance, when suddenly she sank down, deep down into herself, the way wild animals do before they spring, and then she had risen on all her strong legs, and swiped him in one long, powerful, graceful movement across the arm. How lucky for her he survived the blow. The keeper and his friends shot her with a gun to make her sleep. Through her half-open lids she knew they made movements around her. They fed her with tubes. They observed her. They wrote comments in notebooks. And finally they rendered a judgment. She was normal. She was a normal wild beast, whose power is dangerous, whose anger can kill, they had said. Be more careful of her, they advised. Allow her less excitement. Perhaps let her exercise more. She understood none of this. She understood only the look of fear in her keeper's eyes. And now she paces. Paces as if she were angry, as if she were on the edge of frenzy. The spectators imagine she is going through the movements of the hunt, or that she is readying her body for survival. But she knows no life outside the garden. She has no notion of anger over what she could have been, or might be. No idea of rebellion. It is only her body that knows of these things, moving her, daily, hourly, back and forth, back and forth, before the bars of her cage.
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Her womb from her body. Separation. Her clitoris from her vulva. Cleaving. Desire from her body. We were told that bodies rising to heaven lose their vulvas, their ovaries, wombs, that her body in resurrection becomes a male body. The Divine Image from woman, severing, immortality from the garden, exile, the golden calf split, birth, sorrow, suffering. We were told that the blood of a woman after childbirth conveys uncleanness. That if a woman's uterus is detached and falls to the ground, that she is unclean. Her body from the sacred. Spirit from flesh. We were told that if a woman has an issue and that issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be impure for seven days. The impure from the pure. The defiled from the holy. And whoever touches her, we heard, was also impure. Spirit from matter. And we were told that if our garments are stained we are unclean back to the time we can remember seeing our garments unstained, that we must rub seven substances over these stains, and immerse our soiled garments. Separation. The clean from the unclean. The decaying, the putrid, the polluted, the fetid, the eroded, waste, defecation, from the unchanging. The changing from the sacred. We heard it spoken that if a grave is plowed up in a field so that the bones of the dead are lost in the soil of the field, this soil conveys uncleanness. That if a member is severed from a corpse, this too conveys uncleanness, even an olive pit's bulk of flesh. That if marrow is left in a bone there is uncleanness. And of the place where we gathered to weep near the graveyard, we heard that planting and sowing were forbidden since our grieving may have tempted unclean flesh to the soil. And we learned that the dead body must be separated from the city. Death from the city. Wilderness from the city. Wildness from the city. The Cemetery. The Garden. The Zoological Garden. We were told that a wolf circled the walls of the city. That he ate little children. That he ate women. That he lured us away from the city with his tricks. That he was a seducer and he feasted on the flesh of the foolish, and the blood of the errant and sinful stained the snow under his jaws. The errant from the city. The ghetto. The ghetto of Jews. The ghetto of Moors. The quarter of prostitutes. The ghetto of blacks. The neighborhood of lesbians. The prison. The witch house. The underworld. The underground. The sewer. Space Divided. The inch. The foot. The mile. The boundary. The border. The nation. The promised land. The chosen ones.
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To make love is to become like this infant again. We grope with our mouths toward the body of another being, whom we trust, who takes us in her arms. We rock together with this loved one. We move beyond speech. Our bodies move past all the controls we have learned. We cry out in ecstasy, in feeling. We are back in a natural world before culture tried to erase our experience of nature. In this world, to touch another is to express love; there is no idea apart from feeling, and no feeling which does not ring through our bodies and our souls at once.
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This earth is my sister; I love her daily grace, her silent daring, and how loved I am. How we admire this strength in each other, all that we have lost, all that we have suffered, all that we know: We are stunned by this beauty, and I do not forget: what she is to me, what I am to her.
Every important social movement reconfigures the world in the imagination. What was obscure comes forward, lies are revealed, memory shaken, new delineations drawn over the old maps: it is from this new way of seeing the present that hope emerges for the future...Let us begin to imagine the worlds we would like to inhabit, the long lives we will share, and the many futures in our hands.
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I love that moment in writing when language falls short. There is something more there. A larger body. Even by the failure of words I begin to detect its dimensions. As I work the prose, shift the verbs, look for new adjectives, a different rhythm, syntax, something new begins to come to the surface.
The hope you feel when you are in love is not necessarily for anything in particular. Love brings something inside you to life. Perhaps it is just the full dimensionality of your own capacity to feel that returns. In this state you think no impediment can be large enough to interrupt your passion. The feeling spills beyond the object of your love to color the whole world. The mood is not unlike the mood of revolutionaries in the first blush of victory, at the dawn of hope. Anything seems possible. And in the event of failure, it will be this taste of possibility that makes disillusion bitter.
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